As you can see from the snippet above (click to enlarge, slightly; visit the link above for some larger illustrations), the maps are really quite fascinating. Like Bilbo, I love maps and could easily stare at them for hours. In fact, here in my office at work, I have a large map on my wall. No, not Middle-earth; it’s a January 1970* map of the West Indies and Central America. (Why? Because I’ve traveled to several places represented on this map, and I like to look at them from time to time. And like I said: I love maps. That’s reason enough, isn’t it? I have a map of the British Virgin Islands in my bathroom at home, too.)
Language Log has examined the Atlas of True Names, back in November, with a more thorough post than this one. They note (as I would have) that “the cartographers [of the Atlas] have accepted a good number of disputed derivations and folk etymologies.” The creators of the Atlas have acknowledged that “not all translations are definitive,” and anyway, it’s still great fun.
Shortly after Language Log, the Strange Maps blog posted on them too, with this amusing observation:
The Atlas was first published in German as Der Atlas der wahren Namen, and in that version all the original etymologies are of course rendered in German. If like most people you are at least mildly conditioned by movies, literature and other media dealing with World War II to associate the German language with fascism, this ‘germanified’ version of the world is a bit disconcerting.I’ll bet! If you’re interested in the German versions, there are actually three: the World, Europe, and Germany (plus Austria and Switzerland). Considering the richness of toponymic etymology in England, I hope somebody is working on that atlas now. I’ll be sure to let you know if I come across one (or if I decide to take a stab at Middle-earth).
* Belize is identified as British Honduras. :)